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The Fastpitch Bulletin, Volume 20, Number 2 -- 2/10/2020

02/10/2020, 7:45pm CST
By Bob Tomlinson

More Female Head Coaches Coming onto the Scene in Wisconsin -- many more assistants as well. Many others have led their teams there as well

11 of 20 Head Coaches at 2019 State Tournament Were Women

Hello Fastpitch World,

The WFSCA annual clinic is now a thing of history. Coaches from across the Badger State will be taking great information gleaned from the four presenters on the weekend but also from their conversations with other coaches just like them. 

The clinic presenters always offer plenty of information,technique, terminology, philosophy and more. There is never any doubt about that. At the same time there are many successful coaches both young and old who have thoughts, ideas, drills, and more that they incorporate into their programs. During breaks in the clinic, the coaches social get-together on Saturday night, at breakfast lunch or even the Hall of Fame dinner lots of information gets transferred back and forth. Even in the lounge the buzz sessions that take place offer insight into building and maintaining a successful, high school fastpitch softball program. 

On the night before the clinic began a table of female coaches gathered in the lounge and from what I was told talked about their fastpitch programs and a myriad of topics late, late into the night and early morning. Just two tables a way a group of men and women did the same and also early into the Saturday morning hours. While those tables of coaches were enjoying the conversation there were groups of coaches standing next to the bar, sitting in other booths in the lounge as well as groups in the hallway and more. It was a great scene.

Those that attended parts of or the entire Hall of Fame induction process heard four successful coaches talk about the things that separated their programs from those that they took on. There 1547 coaching victories represented among those four coaches representing a winning percentage of 66%. It was good stuff highlighted by one coach who retired from a program he had built over 16 years and knew that the group of players that would return the following year under a new leader held the possibilities for yet another state title. He stated that he’d always said that he would leave the program when it was going to be strong in the years to come and not with the pantry empty. That team did indeed win the state title the year after he retired. That’s enough to nominate a coach for Hall of Fame consideration alone right there even if he had never won a title himself. To leave a solid program to the leadership of someone else does not happen all that often. The pantry is all too often bare or one key player has just graduated. 

Another of the inductees who started his school’s fastpitch program in 1977 leading his girls to eight state tournaments and two Final Fours. On Saturday night he ultimately asked his wife to join him on the platform saying, “She’s the real Hall of Famer here.” That was really a tribute to the teamwork they have within their own household. In his speech he emotionally thanked his mother who has passed away for playing catch in the driveway with him when he was a little kid. He thanked his brothers for the games of wiffle ball in the yard. He thanked lots of people who truly deserved to be thanked. 

A third inductee wrapped up his career of 28 years within just four victories of getting to the 400 win milepost. I think we ought to look back through the archives and see if we can’t locate six forgotten wins he had. It would take looking at the history of two schools as he coached at two and coached in 623 total games. He had 24 winning seasons. He coached his daughter and ultimately took on a former player as a head coach who he credited with having added a great deal to that program. He talked of karma, teamwork and leaving drama out of the equation by wearing a shirt with a statement that said something similar if not, “If you like drama, find a different sport.” The statement on the shirt surely worked for his teams. He talked about positive relationships being the foundation for a successful program. 

The fourth inductee is a coach I do not know as well as the other three. However, he’s a great person who I have spoken with on several occasions. He’s also in the basketball coaches Hall of Fame having coached girls’ softball for 27 years as well as both girls’ and boy’s basketball, winning WISAA state titles in both sports. He thanked his great friend and assistant softball coach who presented him in a way that was a tribute to that friend. He spoke without a written speech or notes but his speech followed a great path. A number of years back our teams did face each other in a Saturday invitational in central Wisconsin. He beat us. 

The fifth induction in the HOF class of 2020 is a fella I have known for a long time. As a men’s major level fastpitch player I had the pleasure of having him call balls and strikes on me, ring me up on a few called thrid strikes I should have swung at, call balls and strikes from over top of my shoulder while I was catching. Of course he worked the bases in just as many mens’ games I played in as he did from behind the plate, never missing a call. He has officiated in six ISC mens’ world fastpitch tournaments as well as eight ASA national tournaments and eight WIAA state tournaments. He served on the National Federation softball rules committee from 2012 through 2016 and serves as the umpire liaison at the WIAA state tournament. He is also an avid downhill skier who had just returned from his annual Colorado ski trip the day of his induction. He told a harrowing story of heavy snow in the mountains and getting out and through the Eisenhower tunnel before five feet of snow had all fallen in order to be there for the night. John Peterson is the first-ever umpire inducted into the WFSCA Hall of Fame. He was the perfect fit to be the first. 

The WFSCA initiated the Hall of Fame in 2009 which was 33 years after the WIAA sponsored a state tournament. Since then a total of 48 people have been inducted. Of that group two are assistant coaches, seven are females and now one is an umpire. That seems like a disproportionate number of males and females but when one considers that there has been softball only since a few years passage of Title IX most nearly all of the head coaches were men. Some of those women were highly successful. Sue McDermott led Madison West to the first-ever state championship when her team beat small-town high school Elmwood coached by William Huber in the title game, 27-8. In 1977 little Elmwood beat Sheboygan South coached by Kay Kreutzman 15-13 in the title game. In 1980 Connie Rutledge led Bonduel to the title game before losing to an even smaller school in Loyal 16-7, a team that had won the 1978 - one-class tournament over Madison LaFollette, then the 1980 Class B (first two-division state tournament beating a Pat Zingler coached Bonduel team.  Rutledge then duplicated her feat by leading Bonduel back to the title game in 1981 losing to Northwestern, 6-4. The sport was growing quickly as more and more schools fired up a softball program to meet Title IX requirements. 1981 marked the first three-division tournament. The tourney trail stayed at three divisions until 2002 when the WISAA schools folded up their operation and became part of the WIAA. In 1981 Glenna Anderson led Bayfield to the Class C state title with a 13-12 win over Almond. In 1984 Dee Jay McFarlane led Watertown to that school’s first-ever state tourney getting beat in the title game 5-0 by Kimberly. As a matter of fact the runner-up in both Class B, Ashland and Class C, Greenwood were coached by women. It was Donna Brown at Ashland and Bonnie Weyer at Greenwood. In 1984 Stevens Point showed up under head coach Marcy Mirman. They made the Final four and was beaten in the semi-final. The next year (1985) she led the Panthers back to Waukesha and took second place behind Milwaukee Bay View, 6-5. Mirman led them back in 1986, that time winning the entire shooting match with a 6-5 win of their own over Madison LaFollette. In 1985 Deb Malueg coached Marion to the Calss C title with some aggressive offensive strategy. In 1986 two women led their teams to the title game with Diana Kolovos coaching Wilmot in Class B while Deb Malueg led Marion to the Class C title game. In 1987 those two women got their teams back to the title game with both taking second. Malueg won the Class C title with Marion in 1988. In 1989 North Fond du Lac was coached by Mary Beth Seffern when they finished runner-up to Kimberly. In 1990 Kolovos and Malueg won the title with Wilmot in Class B and Marion in Class C. Malueg won another title in 1991 which is the year the WIAA switched from Class A,B,C to Divisions 1-2-3. In 1992 Malueg won her fourth state title at Marion and it was the same year that Diane Yaeger arrived in Waukesha with her Seneca team, taking second place. In 1994 my good friend Gerri Hansen led Marshall to the title in Division 3. In 1996 Diane Yaeger led Seneca back to a runner-up spot in Division 3. In 1995 Kris Allison led Westosha Central to second place and would get them back to the state quarter final in 1997. In 2000 Yeager cemented her future HOF nomination and induction by leading Seneca to the state title in Division 3 with a 3-2 win over Amherst. In 2001 Cindy Suess took Verona to its first-ever state tournament finishing runner-up to Stevens Point. She got the Wildcats back to the title game the next year finishing as the runner-up. All in all Suess has led Verona to seven state tournaments and Oshkosh North to two more for a total of nine trips. She is also a deserving Hall of Fame member. Jane Briehl played on the 1986 River Valley Class B State Championship team and after coaching at Potosi for a time returned to Spring Green where she led River Valley to a runner-up finish in 2002. She now serves as the hard-working treasurer of the WFSCA. Janel Batten led Appleton East to a state title in 2000 and a runner-up spot in 2003. The Patriots made it to eight state tournaments and four Final Fours under Batten. A sure future HOF member once I’d bet. She is now the athletic director at Pulaski High School. In 2000 and 2005 Amy Ziehn a former Poynette standout led Portage to the state tournament championship in Division 2 and back to the Final Four in 2007 for three trips. In 2006 Sarah Hennessey led Highland to the Division 4 state title. In 2010 Glenda Smith led Tigerton to the title in Division 4 beating Racine Lutheran coached by Becky Demuth in the title game. It would be the only time in the history of the WIAA State softball tournament where two women were the head coaches in a title game. 2011 two females make it to the title game as Ann Molski headed up a Pacelli team that took second place in Division 4 and Chelsea Rosenow lead McDonell Central to a runner-up finish in Division 4. In 2012 Jamie Olson was at the helm of Sun Prairie and led the Cardinals to a runner-up finish while on the same day Glenda Smith took Tigerton to the final game, finishing runner-up. Molski led Pacelli back to the Division 3 Final Four, winning it all that year. Since 2012 Connie Lampe at Westosha Central has led her team to the state tournament four times and three final fours, winning the entire thing in 2013 and 2015 and runner-up in 2014. In 2013 Laura Turner was a head coach at New London and won the state title and followed that up with a runner-up finish in 2014. In 2015 Molski led Pacelli back to the Division 4 title. Patty Jansen was also there with her 2015 Watertown team taking second place to Lampe’s Westosha team. She returned in 2016 and made it to the title game finishing runner-up in back-to-back seasons. In 2017 Jenny Jacobsen led Wilmot to a second place finish in Division 1 while Regan Peters led Turner to the title game finshing second. Both Molski and Rosenow returned with Pacelli and McDonell Central in 2017. In 2018 Jamie Olson won the Division 1 title at Sun Prairie while Rosenow with a new last name of Seckora and her McDonell team won the Division 5 title. The WIAA went to five divisions in 2017. In 2019 Kate Fjelsad led Chippewa Falls to the state tournament in Division 1 while Olson would get Sun Prairie back and finish second. Billi Vertz who was a standout at Ashwaubenon along with her sister Bobbi back in the 90s leading that team to three straight titles returned as a coach leadiing Pulaski to the Division 1 field. She could be only the second female head coach to have won a state title and coached a team to the tournament (joining Jane Briehl). Jenny Jacobsen led Wilmot back to the Division 1 tournament. The 2019 state tournament had the most female head coaches at the event (five divisions may have boosted the total). Karri Vanden Langenberg led Seymour to the Division state championship while Kenzie Diercks led Ellsworth to Madison before being beaten by Seymour in the semi-final. Courtney Renard led Southern Door to Madison in Division 3 while Abbie Morris got Prescott to the state tourney in Division 3. In Division 4 Dawn Krueger led Mishicot to the title game in Division 4 finishing runner-up. They beat Molski’s Pacelli team in the semi-final at state. In Division 5 Jamie Helmrick was at the helm of Tri-County in the Final Four. Eleven of the 20 head coaches at the state tournament were females. All-in-all, females are making a bigger mark in the head coaching ranks. At the assistant coach level there is a bevy of young women working hard to improve the game. More and more schools are hiring female head coaches than at any time in the history of the WIAA softball program. 

It’s neat to talk to all the special people who are at the clinic. On Friday night I had the chance to proudly introduce a female coach to the friends around the table and at the bar where I was. I told them that she is one of the only two coaches that I know that has played in and won a WIAA state softball championship game and coached in the state championship game. I was happy to have had that chance and happier still when I noticed the proud smile on that coach’s face when introduced to the others. Sitting around that table was the pitcher from a small-town team that pitched her Lakers to a state championship in 1995 and is married to the current head coach at her alma mater who followed that team when she played, never missing a game then became the assistant coach to the Hall of Fame coach from that school. Also there, was one of her teammates from that team. There were also two young coaches who were teammates on the UW-River Falls softball team after they had completed their high school careers, one from that same small Wisconsin high school and one from a private school in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. There was also a 26 or 27 year veteran who has led his small-town school to the state tournament two times. There was a coach from just a bit larger small-town who started a new fastpitch program in his hometown just six seasons ago and has watched his work turn into more than 100 victories. At the table surrounded by all those female coaches there was also a coach who led her team to the state tournament, finishing second twice and throughout the years has been a leader in the advancement of the sport in the state and the coaches association.That was all on the night before the clinic even started.

That’s enough for tonight. Have a great tomorrow and and even greater rest of the week.
Keep it Rising!



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